Friday, August 29, 2014

Ask the Locals: Scott Wagman and Beth Houghton, St. Pete power couple

Posted By on Fri, Aug 29, 2014 at 6:09 PM

click to enlarge PHOTO BY HEIDI KURPIELA
  • Photo by Heidi Kurpiela

Scott Wagman and Beth Houghton are business leaders, community activists, philanthropists and longtime champions of St. Petersburg. They met as undergrads at Tulane University in the 1970s and moved to St. Petersburg more than three decades ago.

Wagman, 61, turned his family’s small Sarasota paint manufacturing company, Scott Paint, into a multi-million-dollar enterprise. As president of the company, the gregarious Wagman was revered for his vision, keen business instincts and generosity. (Under Wagman’s management, Scott Paint routinely paid for employees’ college educations.) He sold the company in 1998 to focus his attention on fulltime real estate and financial investing. In 2009, he ran (unsuccessfully) for St. Petersburg mayor –– his first and only bid for public office.

Houghton, 59, is the former CFO and general counsel of All Children’s Health System. A CPA and attorney, she took over three years ago as executive director of the St. Petersburg Free Clinic. In the nonprofit world, she’s regarded as a fundraising linchpin. In 2003, she steered the capital campaign to relocate and resuscitate the ailing Great Explorations Children’s Museum. In 2006, she and Wagman donated $1 million to the organization –– the nonprofit’s largest contribution to date.

The couple has been married for 36 years. They have three children and two grandchildren and live in Ovation in downtown St. Pete.

Best place to take kids: Great Explorations Children’s Museum. Beth: “Every kid needs to have a safe place to experiment. I look back at my childhood and it was full of unstructured play. Kids can be kids at Great Explorations and in a sneaky way they’re learning.” Scott: “It’s unheralded and unknown to tourists.”

Best place to get dirty: Boyd Hill Nature Preserve. Scott: “It’s a really cool place to explore. You could literally spend a day trekking through the woods without having to leave the city. Our public parks are unmatched by any city as far as I’m concerned.”

Best cake baker: Cakes By Carolynn. Beth: “We get their birthday cakes for our grandsons. The wonderful thing is you can pick your frosting, your filling. They’ve got everything you could possibly imagine.”

Best secluded breakfast nook: Sweet Sage Café in Redington Beach. Beth: “It’s a funky, fun atmosphere with a neat little gift shop. I love their lattes and yogurt/granola parfaits.”

Best nondescript French restaurant: Gulf Bistro. Beth: “When we lived on Madeira Beach, it was our go-to spot for dinner.”

Best new addition to downtown: DeLucia Italian Bakery. Beth: “Their limoncello cake is to die for.” Scott: “They have the best chocolate croissants and espresso in the business.”

Best ritzy rendezvous: The fire pit in front of The Vinoy. Beth: “It’s one of the few places where Scott can smoke a cigar.”

Best burger in the ’Burg: The Avenue. Scott: “Their Lucy Juicy burger is a grade above every other burger as far as meat and toppings go.”

Best local caterer: Margaret Ann’s Catering. Scott: “Her chunky chocolate chip cookies are ridiculously good. Very prominent people have been known to sneak out of events with those cookies in their pockets.”

Best St. Pete melting pot: Skyway Jack’s. Beth: “People who’ve been around for a while will remember that it used to be pretty down and dirty. It’s actually much more upscale now.” Scott: “It still runs the gamut. You’ll see derelicts to CEOs. You can walk in with the rattiest clothes or the nicest clothes and it doesn’t matter.”

Best old school hotdog stand: Coney Island Grill. Beth: “If you want to order like a real local you say, ‘Two all the way and a Coke.’ You don’t need to say chili dog.”

Best place to tee off: Mangrove Bay Golf Course. Scott: “It’s a great bang for your buck and it’s one of the few public golf courses in St. Pete.”

Best instant gratification: Tranquility Wellness Spa. Beth: “They do an unusual algae wrap. It’s so relaxing. There’s actually a shower in the room and after the wrap is pulled off you actually shower lying down.”

Best place to purchase a gift: Nancy Markoe Gallery and Shapiro’s Gallery. Beth: “I’m a jewelry fiend and both places have unique wearable jewelry you don’t find everywhere.”

Best fundraising event: Battle of the Minds at the Vinoy.
Beth: “It’s a riot because you’ve got tables of people competing against each other in a trivia game. There’s always the one guy at the table that thinks he knows everything and the other guy that likes to trash talk him.”

Best place to purchase an heirloom: Bruce Watters Jewelers. Beth: “They’ve created a couple pieces for me that are very special, and the Watters family has been a part of the community for a long time.”

Best convenient eating: Cassis American Brasserie. Scott: “We live at Ovation, so we live at Cassis. Their smoked salmon and eggs benedict breakfast is unbelievable.”

Best church potluck: First Presbyterian Church in St. Pete. Beth: “If you’re new to town or just staying at the Vinoy, that church is extraordinary. The potlucks are killer, the organists are unbelievably good and they offer traditional and contemporary services.”

Best place to see live theater: American Stage Theatre Company. Beth: “The environment is intimate and the quality is consistently good while still being edgy and acceptable to everyone.”

Best hidden market: Jo-El’s Kosher Deli. Beth: “It’s a superb Jewish deli and butcher shop that’s not on the beaten track. Scott likes their chopped liver.”

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